Long-lasting infections with high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cancer in parts of the body where HPV infects cells, such as in the cervix, oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth, behind the oral cavity that also includes the back third of the tongue, the soft palate, the side and back walls of the throat, and the tonsils), anus, penis, vagina, and vulva.
Screening for HPV-Related Cancers
Currently, cervical cancer is the only HPV-caused cancer for which FDA-approved screening tests are available. Screening for cervical cancer is an important part of routine health care for people who have a cervix. This includes women and transgender men who still have a cervix. Cervical cancer screening tests include the HPV test that checks cervical cells for high-risk HPV, the Pap test that checks for cervical cell changes that can be caused by high-risk HPV, and the HPV/Pap co-test that checks for both high-risk HPV and cervical cell changes.
Anal cancer screening: Among populations that are at higher risk for HPV infection, such as men who have sex with men or men who are HIV positive, some research has found that an anal Pap test (also called an anal Pap smear) may help to detect early cell changes or precancerous cells.
Oral cancer screening: Currently, there are no standard screening tests for oral cancer. However, dentists usually check for signs of oral and oropharyngeal cancer as part of a routine dental check-up.
HPV Vaccination & Cancer Prevention
Who Should Get HPV Vaccine?
HPV vaccination is recommended at ages 11–12 years. HPV vaccines can be given starting at age 9 years. All preteens need HPV vaccination, so they are protected from HPV infections that can cause cancer later in life.
Teens and young adults through age 26 years who didn’t start or finish the HPV vaccine series also need HPV vaccination.
Vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. Some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination for them.
How Well Do These Vaccines Work?
HPV vaccination works extremely well. HPV vaccine has the potential to prevent more than 90% of HPV-attributable cancers.
Since HPV vaccination was first recommended in 2006, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 88% among teen girls and 81% among young adult women.
Fewer teens and young adults are getting genital warts.
HPV vaccination has also reduced the number of cases of precancers of the cervix in young women.
Reasons to Get HPV Vaccine
85% of people will get an HPV infection in their lifetime.
Almost every unvaccinated person who is sexually active will get HPV at some time in their life. About 13 million Americans, including teens, become infected with HPV each year.
HPV is estimated to cause nearly 36,000 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the United States. HPV vaccination can prevent 33,000 of these cancers by preventing the infections that cause them.
Resources for HPV-Related Cancers
*Information courtesy of the National Cancer Institute
*vaccine information courtesy of the CDC